"I've been stuck in a loop for years. Subconsciously, I was so addicted to a difficult situation that motivated me to act that I brought down disasters upon myself." An interview with Karolina Szaciłło, writer and journalist
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Who aren’t you any longer?

I am no longer an alcoholic.

I am no longer a drug addict.

I am no longer a food addict.

I am no longer a woman who loves too much and becomes addicted to new relationships like to a drug. 

I am no longer a controlling partner; I sometimes am one, but less and less. 

I am no longer a woman who – through her behaviour – pretends to be a man. 

I am no longer a bitch, and I’ve been one for many years.

I am no longer a person who hurts herself and who doesn’t accept herself, although the process of self-acceptance is still in progress.

I am not a mother-manager anymore, although maybe in this case I should say that I am being one less and less. 

In the book "Jestem kobietą" ["I am a woman"] which is your sincere and courageous story about your own life, you also say that you are no longer a little tomboy who hid her girlishness under layers of aggression. What do you mean?

 

I come from Silesia, which years ago, I have the impression, was more patriarchal than the rest of Poland. In the past, the model of the family, in which the woman looks after the house and children (and often also works), and the man is the primary earner who gets a warm dinner every day, was dominant. My dad was glad he had a daughter, he loved me, but he wanted to raise me to be a strong guy. It was a bit like this: go put your trousers on and show your boy friends who will be successful here. 

Did he want to free you from this patriarchal pattern?

Yes. He wanted me to be independent, to earn money. Today I know that there is no such thing as one hundred percent woman and one hundred percent man, that what is masculine and what is feminine permeate each of us in different proportions. But then, when I was a child, teenager, young person, I associated this "femininity" understood as sensitivity and empathy primarily with weakness. And that’s why I hid it carefully. So I put my "trousers" on in practically every area of my life. 

A few years ago, when I started therapy, I heard that my inner child, this four- or five-year-old girl, was standing there upset. She was wearing armour, a shield, an axe, a sabre and a helmet. I put it all on to break through and achieve something on the one hand, and on the other – so as not to get hurt. I think that alcohol, drugs and all the harm I did to myself were indirectly caused by the armour. It was choking me. In order to become tough and strong, I stopped listening to myself and stopped recognising myself. 

In your book you write that beer, wine and vodka determined your life. And about the narcotic experiences – that the list of things you would never do kept getting shorter.

Today I feel that I am myself thanks to yoga, conscious breathing and therapy. I tend to be myself more often because I have looked inside myself over the last few years. I have taken responsibility for these beautiful but also less pleasant aspects of my personality. In the past, to feel confident, I needed alcohol and drugs. Thanks to psychoactive substances, I was able to shed my armour for a while. It was only when I was drunk or high that I started to feel that I was worth something. When I was sober, I had the complex of the stupider, less intelligent, not well-read one. 

There was another mechanism that governed me, which I would call a "bottle of wine". It consists in being attached to a certain sine wave. In addition, when it is good, there is a breakdown, a difficult situation appears, from which you have to get up, dig out, climb the next peak. When you succeed, it is fine again. Until the next breakdown, of course. It was only during therapy that I realised that my whole matrix of love was connected with this "bottle of wine". This mechanism very often applies to ACoA people for whom a parent’s binge drinking was the moment of breakdown in their childhood. In me, it was partially imprinted by this upbringing as a boy who had to handle everything. And I have to admit that alcohol, the aforementioned "bottle of wine", helped me with this matrix sensationally. At first it was great: fitness, a healthy diet, meeting friends, and then I would go to a party. I drank not one but several bottles, then woke up in the morning and couldn’t remember what had happened. Then I had to make an effort to bounce back again, climb the next peak, and then there was another party and another fall. I was stuck in this mental loop for years.  

At what point did you feel that you were hurting yourself? Was it the fall from the roof after which you were unconscious for several days? Or perhaps the business trip to Paris, when you woke up after a night you didn’t remember and realised that your entire group had already left?

 

One alcoholism theorist says that a person must hit rock bottom for a moment of rebound to happen. The bottom for everyone is in a different place, for one it is a failed presentation at work, for another – the loss of their family. My bottom was deep. And my body became a map of my falls. Both of the moments you mention were significant. But just as important was a meditation workshop I took part in. I didn’t go to it as an enthusiast of New Age. I showed up as a totally sceptical journalist for a colour magazine, ready to deny everything. And yet, despite the lack of openness, I experienced something extraordinary. During one of the breathing processes, I had the impression that I was observing my body in meditation. Two ground-breaking things happened then. First, I saw how much I was hurting myself. Secondly, I looked inside myself and for the first time in my life I noticed that there was joy, love and goodness in me. Today I feel that on that day, I "came home" after years of absence. 

What happened next?

The workshop lasted a week. It was a week without alcohol, cigarettes or stimulants. I felt great. When the workshop was over, I had the impression that I had touched the sky. Two days later, I went to a night club in Warsaw only to hit rock bottom again. The aforementioned "bottle of wine" was such a powerful mechanism that I couldn’t control it. Since I had done something so good for myself, I needed to automatically give myself an even punishment. Punishment and reward, reward and punishment. I got high at that club party. But this dissonance between the state of purity, meditation, joy within, and this debasement was an extremely sobering experience. 

Did you cut back on your drinking then?

There was a transitional period. I continued to go to parties, but could no longer drink as much as before. After two glasses of wine, I started to vomit. As if something inside was saying "stop". Later I went to India for a silence course. I was going to spend a week in the ashram and then join my friends in Goa. I stayed for three weeks. I extended my stay because for the first time in my life I felt that I could free myself from addiction. There, in India, something transformed me. My thinking went from the "must" to the "want" mode. Until then, I kept telling myself: Karola, you need to stop drinking. In India, for the first time I thought: I want to stop drinking. 

Do you have to go to a distant place to look so deeply into yourself and start the process of transformation?

 

Absolutely not. This is what my path looked like, but you can travel inside yourself without leaving your home. The pandemic, paradoxically, can contribute to this and it is not just about travel restrictions. COVID and the last year have meant that we are all in a global transformation process, whether we like it or not. All our strategies, intricately woven over the years, of denying emotions, of running away from ourselves wear out in the new reality. After years of sprinting, it’s time to stop. To look inside. To look into the eyes of the dragon who, who knows, may turn out to be less dangerous than we thought. 

Have you had relapses, crises?

Crises – of course. After all, our whole life is a series of ups and downs.

Several things contributed to my recovery from addiction. First, meditation and conscious breathing have brought me enormous relief. Secondly, during the therapy, I found the underlying mechanisms and conditions in my disease. And when I touched the root cause and released it, the symptoms followed. I once did an interview with an addiction specialist who said that the moment we get to the root of the addiction, we are in the right place. Meaning that a person addicted to, for example, alcohol does not have to fear alcohol for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, such a full recovery is not common. Therefore, abstinence is absolutely crucial for us, most alcoholics.

I will tell you a story. When I met Maciek, I was at a point where I felt a great desire for wine. I’d been sober for three years. However, the new relationship triggered an avalanche of unworked mechanisms and emotions that literally flooded my seemingly well-organised life. There was also a need to drown them out with alcohol. After talking to Maciek and a therapist close to my heart, I felt that since I had worked through the cause of my addiction, I could safely drink a glass of wine. I realised that if I didn’t, wine would become a forbidden fruit that would come back to me on various occasions. So I went with Maciek to a good restaurant and chose a glass of the most expensive wine from the menu. And then when I got it, I took two sips and… put down my glass. I felt I didn’t need it any more. For the first time in my life, when I had a glass of wine in front of me, I didn’t think about another one.

Then, in this restaurant, I felt that I was free. That yes, I could drink this dry wine, but I didn’t have to and I didn’t want to. Does this mean that every alcoholic should undergo such a test after years of abstinence? Absolutely not! As I mentioned, abstinence is crucial for most addicts. 

Who aren’t you any longer?

I am no longer an alcoholic.

I am no longer a drug addict.

I am no longer a food addict.

I am no longer a woman who loves too much and becomes addicted to new relationships like to a drug. 

I am no longer a controlling partner; I sometimes am one, but less and less. 

I am no longer a woman who – through her behaviour – pretends to be a man. 

I am no longer a bitch, and I’ve been one for many years.

I am no longer a person who hurts herself and who doesn’t accept herself, although the process of self-acceptance is still in progress.

I am not a mother-manager anymore, although maybe in this case I should say that I am being one less and less. 

In the book "Jestem kobietą" ["I am a woman"] which is your sincere and courageous story about your own life, you also say that you are no longer a little tomboy who hid her girlishness under layers of aggression. What do you mean?

I come from Silesia, which years ago, I have the impression, was more patriarchal than the rest of Poland. In the past, the model of the family, in which the woman looks after the house and children (and often also works), and the man is the primary earner who gets a warm dinner every day, was dominant. My dad was glad he had a daughter, he loved me, but he wanted to raise me to be a strong guy. It was a bit like this: go put your trousers on and show your boy friends who will be successful here. 

Did he want to free you from this patriarchal pattern?

Yes. He wanted me to be independent, to earn money. Today I know that there is no such thing as one hundred percent woman and one hundred percent man, that what is masculine and what is feminine permeate each of us in different proportions. But then, when I was a child, teenager, young person, I associated this "femininity" understood as sensitivity and empathy primarily with weakness. And that’s why I hid it carefully. So I put my "trousers" on in practically every area of my life. 

A few years ago, when I started therapy, I heard that my inner child, this four- or five-year-old girl, was standing there upset. She was wearing armour, a shield, an axe, a sabre and a helmet. I put it all on to break through and achieve something on the one hand, and on the other – so as not to get hurt. I think that alcohol, drugs and all the harm I did to myself were indirectly caused by the armour. It was choking me. In order to become tough and strong, I stopped listening to myself and stopped recognising myself. 

In your book you write that beer, wine and vodka determined your life. And about the narcotic experiences – that the list of things you would never do kept getting shorter.

 

Today I feel that I am myself thanks to yoga, conscious breathing and therapy. I tend to be myself more often because I have looked inside myself over the last few years. I have taken responsibility for these beautiful but also less pleasant aspects of my personality. In the past, to feel confident, I needed alcohol and drugs. Thanks to psychoactive substances, I was able to shed my armour for a while. It was only when I was drunk or high that I started to feel that I was worth something. When I was sober, I had the complex of the stupider, less intelligent, not well-read one. 

There was another mechanism that governed me, which I would call a "bottle of wine". It consists in being attached to a certain sine wave. In addition, when it is good, there is a breakdown, a difficult situation appears, from which you have to get up, dig out, climb the next peak. When you succeed, it is fine again. Until the next breakdown, of course. It was only during therapy that I realised that my whole matrix of love was connected with this "bottle of wine". This mechanism very often applies to ACoA people for whom a parent’s binge drinking was the moment of breakdown in their childhood. In me, it was partially imprinted by this upbringing as a boy who had to handle everything. And I have to admit that alcohol, the aforementioned "bottle of wine", helped me with this matrix sensationally. At first it was great: fitness, a healthy diet, meeting friends, and then I would go to a party. I drank not one but several bottles, then woke up in the morning and couldn’t remember what had happened. Then I had to make an effort to bounce back again, climb the next peak, and then there was another party and another fall. I was stuck in this mental loop for years.  

At what point did you feel that you were hurting yourself? Was it the fall from the roof after which you were unconscious for several days? Or perhaps the business trip to Paris, when you woke up after a night you didn’t remember and realised that your entire group had already left?

One alcoholism theorist says that a person must hit rock bottom for a moment of rebound to happen. The bottom for everyone is in a different place, for one it is a failed presentation at work, for another – the loss of their family. My bottom was deep. And my body became a map of my falls. Both of the moments you mention were significant. But just as important was a meditation workshop I took part in. I didn’t go to it as an enthusiast of New Age. I showed up as a totally sceptical journalist for a colour magazine, ready to deny everything. And yet, despite the lack of openness, I experienced something extraordinary. During one of the breathing processes, I had the impression that I was observing my body in meditation. Two ground-breaking things happened then. First, I saw how much I was hurting myself. Secondly, I looked inside myself and for the first time in my life I noticed that there was joy, love and goodness in me. Today I feel that on that day, I "came home" after years of absence. 

What happened next?

The workshop lasted a week. It was a week without alcohol, cigarettes or stimulants. I felt great. When the workshop was over, I had the impression that I had touched the sky. Two days later, I went to a night club in Warsaw only to hit rock bottom again. The aforementioned "bottle of wine" was such a powerful mechanism that I couldn’t control it. Since I had done something so good for myself, I needed to automatically give myself an even punishment. Punishment and reward, reward and punishment. I got high at that club party. But this dissonance between the state of purity, meditation, joy within, and this debasement was an extremely sobering experience. 

Did you cut back on your drinking then?

There was a transitional period. I continued to go to parties, but could no longer drink as much as before. After two glasses of wine, I started to vomit. As if something inside was saying "stop". Later I went to India for a silence course. I was going to spend a week in the ashram and then join my friends in Goa. I stayed for three weeks. I extended my stay because for the first time in my life I felt that I could free myself from addiction. There, in India, something transformed me. My thinking went from the "must" to the "want" mode. Until then, I kept telling myself: Karola, you need to stop drinking. In India, for the first time I thought: I want to stop drinking. 

Do you have to go to a distant place to look so deeply into yourself and start the process of transformation?

Absolutely not. This is what my path looked like, but you can travel inside yourself without leaving your home. The pandemic, paradoxically, can contribute to this and it is not just about travel restrictions. COVID and the last year have meant that we are all in a global transformation process, whether we like it or not. All our strategies, intricately woven over the years, of denying emotions, of running away from ourselves wear out in the new reality. After years of sprinting, it’s time to stop. To look inside. To look into the eyes of the dragon who, who knows, may turn out to be less dangerous than we thought. 

Have you had relapses, crises?

Crises – of course. After all, our whole life is a series of ups and downs.

Several things contributed to my recovery from addiction. First, meditation and conscious breathing have brought me enormous relief. Secondly, during the therapy, I found the underlying mechanisms and conditions in my disease. And when I touched the root cause and released it, the symptoms followed. I once did an interview with an addiction specialist who said that the moment we get to the root of the addiction, we are in the right place. Meaning that a person addicted to, for example, alcohol does not have to fear alcohol for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, such a full recovery is not common. Therefore, abstinence is absolutely crucial for us, most alcoholics.

I will tell you a story. When I met Maciek, I was at a point where I felt a great desire for wine. I’d been sober for three years. However, the new relationship triggered an avalanche of unworked mechanisms and emotions that literally flooded my seemingly well-organised life. There was also a need to drown them out with alcohol. After talking to Maciek and a therapist close to my heart, I felt that since I had worked through the cause of my addiction, I could safely drink a glass of wine. I realised that if I didn’t, wine would become a forbidden fruit that would come back to me on various occasions. So I went with Maciek to a good restaurant and chose a glass of the most expensive wine from the menu. And then when I got it, I took two sips and… put down my glass. I felt I didn’t need it any more. For the first time in my life, when I had a glass of wine in front of me, I didn’t think about another one.

Then, in this restaurant, I felt that I was free. That yes, I could drink this dry wine, but I didn’t have to and I didn’t want to. Does this mean that every alcoholic should undergo such a test after years of abstinence? Absolutely not! As I mentioned, abstinence is crucial for most addicts. 

How was your abstinence and transformation received by your friends from Goa and other party years?

Each of our relationships is like dancing, I write about it in the book in the chapter on patchwork. Sometimes it’s like dancing with two people, sometimes with four, five, six... When we change our steps, the rest of us have to respond and either adapt or not – then we start to dance with someone else. Of course, we can help them adapt, learn a new "choreography" together, but we cannot take the steps for them. 

Answering your question – some of my friends from those years are still close to me. But our relationships and our deal have been transformed. In some cases, this running-in took several years. But I had to part with many friends and acquaintances. I know that certain relationships must be closed to make room for new ones. Thanks to these breakdowns and changes, there is space in my life for love, for my partner – for Maciek.

In the book, you describe one of your first meetings with a psychotherapist, during which you were asked what you associate love with. You listed in turn: stomach problems, insomnia, an inability to live without the object of desire. The psychotherapist made you realise that these are signs of anxiety. 

At the same meeting, the therapist recommended a book by Robin Norwood, "Women Who Love Too Much". After reading it, I had a fever and lost my voice for two days. I realised that all my relationships thus far had been based on not loving myself. In order not to touch all the shit I was carrying inside me, I got into toxic relationships. They helped distract from the twisted, painful interior and focus on someone else. And that doesn’t mean my partner had to be toxic. Often, it was me who created the toxicity in a given relationship and then put all my energy into saving it. After reading this, and that was a time when meditation also appeared in my life, I did a relationship detox and for several years – by choice – I lived celibate. I needed it after all the mornings I woke up and didn’t know what had happened. This detox made me realise that I hadn’t really loved before. That I was excited not by love, not by closeness, but by fear. That I was driven by situations in which someone escaped, so I had to chase, fight, and fall on the way. Situations where, without loving myself, I wanted to get love in the outside world. 

Did the aforementioned "bottle of wine", your matrix of love reappear?

Yes, it was always about climbing the next peak with me. A partner who gave me my heart did not interest me at all, did not excite me. 

Alexander Lowen in his book "Depression and the Body" writes about the fact that there are two dominant models of upbringing – of course with a million shades – which parents, usually unconsciously, use. Then those become our love matrices. Model one: "Go, put on a dress and sing beautifully at the party," makes the child feel that they must shine to deserve love. Model two: "Dad came back tired from work, go to your room, be quiet" is the message that in order to be loved, you must disappear. My love matrix was definitely closer to the first model. For most of my life, I chased recognition outside and waited for someone to tell me that I was great. Then he would accept me and love me. Only the therapist and Maciek made me realise that nobody would love me until I loved myself. Or in other words – I would not get closer to anyone, I would not love until I found love inside me. 

Meeting Maciek was a stage and completion of your transformation. A man with a history, with two daughters, sensitive, but on a bend in life. 

At this meeting where the therapist noticed my armour, she said that until I dropped all that armour, I had no chance of finding a conscious partner. She was right. When I started working on myself, when I sent a signal to be ready, Maciek appeared. 

Our relationship began with friendship. I was not his ideal of a woman, he was not my ideal of a man, although he was closer to my ideal than the other way around. In order to be together, each of us has worked through many of our own fears and conditions. I was in the process of change, which is still going on, but that was just the beginning of the road.

When I stopped drinking, I put on a lot of weight. The old, familiar mechanism started up again: if on the one hand I did something good for myself, on the other – I had to beat myself up. This time I hit my body. The more I became aware of who I was inside, the more I needed to cover up and hide. I hid my delicate, sensitive interior in a straitjacket made of fat. Maciek was honest with me from the very beginning. He was getting closer to me, he was friendly, but my appearance did not fit into his canon of beauty. When I accused him of not accepting my body, he asked if I accepted myself. He rightly emphasised that as long as I did not like myself a little, I would seek acceptance from others in vain. When I started to get closer to the most important person in my life – myself – I started to lose weight. It wasn’t like I had slimmed down for Maciek or that he had slimmed me down. When we started being together, I weighed a lot more than I do today. It was work on self-acceptance, emotional hunger and other conditions related, among others, to food.

But I guess you can go the road to self-acceptance without losing weight?

Of course. Having a slim body absolutely does not condition our acceptance of ourselves. I know a lot of beautiful, self-confident women who wear their kilograms wonderfully and who even radiate inner harmony. I lost 20 kilos, but I still look in the mirror and think that I look terrible. However, I already know that when I think this way, I don’t really think about the body, but something that is hidden much deeper... 

Because the easiest way is to put the responsibility on the body?

Yes, it’s easier to say that I don’t accept my butt, thighs or sagging belly than to say that I don’t accept that there is competition, jealousy in me, and that I’m a bitch. But you can also take a step in the other direction: by looking at your naked body in the mirror, you notice something beautiful. Later that one "beautiful atom" will radiate out to all the rest. In Eastern philosophy, this procedure of accepting a small particle is called "the wedding of the atom." Don’t get me wrong. Of course, it’s worth taking care of your body. The problem arises when the body becomes just a prop, a tool to build all of our self-acceptance, another way not to touch our emotions. Both pleasant ones and those less pleasant. After all, each is important. It is a signpost for us, a signal that our mind sends out to guide our transformation. Therefore, when speaking of acceptance, it is good to look at a person from multiple levels. To notice not only the body, but also the mind and emotions, our relations with the environment. 

Your path to self-acceptance has also been through working through the "second wife syndrome". You write about it in the touching chapter on patchwork. 

It was the most difficult part of the book for me to write. Confessing that when your current partner’s ex-wife is a beautiful, talented woman and you still lacked an established self-esteem, then jealousy and competition could emerge, took some extra courage. It doesn’t matter how much trust, love and closeness there is in your relationship. However, there is a second aspect to this situation. Thanks to my relationship with Maciek, the appearance of his daughters, indirectly their mother, and later our son Jasio, I was able to confront all this uncomfortable, repressed baggage of emotions. I could, or actually can, expand my narrow but comfortable comfort zone with small steps. 

I believe that all situations in our life, especially the unpleasant ones, are in fact opportunities and veiled lessons. This is what my entire book is about. About the process of internal transformation that leads to taking responsibility for yourself, your emotions and your life. About the fact that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and that even the most hardcore problems can be overcome. On what condition? To this day, I am helped by my gradually emerging humility and sense of humour. 

You, the "boy from Silesia", have come a long way to proudly say today, "I am a woman." Who are you still today?

I am a woman who likes to "put on trousers" from time to time. I am Jasio’s mother. I am Maciek’s wife. I am Karola and Jadźka’s aunt (I do not like the word "stepmother"). I am a writer. I am also a good organiser. I am a teacher. I am satisfied and happy more and more often. And you know, the farther into the forest I go, the more I feel that I just… am.

Each of our relationships is like dancing, I write about it in the book in the chapter on patchwork. Sometimes it’s like dancing with two people, sometimes with four, five, six... When we change our steps, the rest of us have to respond and either adapt or not – then we start to dance with someone else. Of course, we can help them adapt, learn a new "choreography" together, but we cannot take the steps for them. 

Answering your question – some of my friends from those years are still close to me. But our relationships and our deal have been transformed. In some cases, this running-in took several years. But I had to part with many friends and acquaintances. I know that certain relationships must be closed to make room for new ones. Thanks to these breakdowns and changes, there is space in my life for love, for my partner – for Maciek.

In the book, you describe one of your first meetings with a psychotherapist, during which you were asked what you associate love with. You listed in turn: stomach problems, insomnia, an inability to live without the object of desire. The psychotherapist made you realise that these are signs of anxiety. 

At the same meeting, the therapist recommended a book by Robin Norwood, "Women Who Love Too Much". After reading it, I had a fever and lost my voice for two days. I realised that all my relationships thus far had been based on not loving myself. In order not to touch all the shit I was carrying inside me, I got into toxic relationships. They helped distract from the twisted, painful interior and focus on someone else. And that doesn’t mean my partner had to be toxic. Often, it was me who created the toxicity in a given relationship and then put all my energy into saving it. After reading this, and that was a time when meditation also appeared in my life, I did a relationship detox and for several years – by choice – I lived celibate. I needed it after all the mornings I woke up and didn’t know what had happened. This detox made me realise that I hadn’t really loved before. That I was excited not by love, not by closeness, but by fear. That I was driven by situations in which someone escaped, so I had to chase, fight, and fall on the way. Situations where, without loving myself, I wanted to get love in the outside world. 

Did the aforementioned "bottle of wine", your matrix of love reappear?

Yes, it was always about climbing the next peak with me. A partner who gave me my heart did not interest me at all, did not excite me. 

Alexander Lowen in his book "Depression and the Body" writes about the fact that there are two dominant models of upbringing – of course with a million shades – which parents, usually unconsciously, use. Then those become our love matrices. Model one: "Go, put on a dress and sing beautifully at the party," makes the child feel that they must shine to deserve love. Model two: "Dad came back tired from work, go to your room, be quiet" is the message that in order to be loved, you must disappear. My love matrix was definitely closer to the first model. For most of my life, I chased recognition outside and waited for someone to tell me that I was great. Then he would accept me and love me. Only the therapist and Maciek made me realise that nobody would love me until I loved myself. Or in other words – I would not get closer to anyone, I would not love until I found love inside me. 

Meeting Maciek was a stage and completion of your transformation. A man with a history, with two daughters, sensitive, but on a bend in life. 

At this meeting where the therapist noticed my armour, she said that until I dropped all that armour, I had no chance of finding a conscious partner. She was right. When I started working on myself, when I sent a signal to be ready, Maciek appeared. 

Our relationship began with friendship. I was not his ideal of a woman, he was not my ideal of a man, although he was closer to my ideal than the other way around. In order to be together, each of us has worked through many of our own fears and conditions. I was in the process of change, which is still going on, but that was just the beginning of the road.

When I stopped drinking, I put on a lot of weight. The old, familiar mechanism started up again: if on the one hand I did something good for myself, on the other – I had to beat myself up. This time I hit my body. The more I became aware of who I was inside, the more I needed to cover up and hide. I hid my delicate, sensitive interior in a straitjacket made of fat. Maciek was honest with me from the very beginning. He was getting closer to me, he was friendly, but my appearance did not fit into his canon of beauty. When I accused him of not accepting my body, he asked if I accepted myself. He rightly emphasised that as long as I did not like myself a little, I would seek acceptance from others in vain. When I started to get closer to the most important person in my life – myself – I started to lose weight. It wasn’t like I had slimmed down for Maciek or that he had slimmed me down. When we started being together, I weighed a lot more than I do today. It was work on self-acceptance, emotional hunger and other conditions related, among others, to food.

But I guess you can go the road to self-acceptance without losing weight?

Of course. Having a slim body absolutely does not condition our acceptance of ourselves. I know a lot of beautiful, self-confident women who wear their kilograms wonderfully and who even radiate inner harmony. I lost 20 kilos, but I still look in the mirror and think that I look terrible. However, I already know that when I think this way, I don’t really think about the body, but something that is hidden much deeper... 

Because the easiest way is to put the responsibility on the body?

Yes, it’s easier to say that I don’t accept my butt, thighs or sagging belly than to say that I don’t accept that there is competition, jealousy in me, and that I’m a bitch. But you can also take a step in the other direction: by looking at your naked body in the mirror, you notice something beautiful. Later that one "beautiful atom" will radiate out to all the rest. In Eastern philosophy, this procedure of accepting a small particle is called "the wedding of the atom." Don’t get me wrong. Of course, it’s worth taking care of your body. The problem arises when the body becomes just a prop, a tool to build all of our self-acceptance, another way not to touch our emotions. Both pleasant ones and those less pleasant. After all, each is important. It is a signpost for us, a signal that our mind sends out to guide our transformation. Therefore, when speaking of acceptance, it is good to look at a person from multiple levels. To notice not only the body, but also the mind and emotions, our relations with the environment. 

Your path to self-acceptance has also been through working through the "second wife syndrome". You write about it in the touching chapter on patchwork. 

It was the most difficult part of the book for me to write. Confessing that when your current partner’s ex-wife is a beautiful, talented woman and you still lacked an established self-esteem, then jealousy and competition could emerge, took some extra courage. It doesn’t matter how much trust, love and closeness there is in your relationship. However, there is a second aspect to this situation. Thanks to my relationship with Maciek, the appearance of his daughters, indirectly their mother, and later our son Jasio, I was able to confront all this uncomfortable, repressed baggage of emotions. I could, or actually can, expand my narrow but comfortable comfort zone with small steps. 

I believe that all situations in our life, especially the unpleasant ones, are in fact opportunities and veiled lessons. This is what my entire book is about. About the process of internal transformation that leads to taking responsibility for yourself, your emotions and your life. About the fact that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and that even the most hardcore problems can be overcome. On what condition? To this day, I am helped by my gradually emerging humility and sense of humour. 

You, the "boy from Silesia", have come a long way to proudly say today, "I am a woman." Who are you still today?

I am a woman who likes to "put on trousers" from time to time. I am Jasio’s mother. I am Maciek’s wife. I am Karola and Jadźka’s aunt (I do not like the word "stepmother"). I am a writer. I am also a good organiser. I am a teacher. I am satisfied and happy more and more often. And you know, the farther into the forest I go, the more I feel that I just… am.

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